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Am J Ophthalmol. 1999 Aug;128(2):216-21.

Third cranial nerve palsy in children.

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Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania, USA.



To report the causes and the sensory, motor, and cosmetic results after treatment for oculomotor (third cranial nerve) palsy in children.


Review of the clinical records of children with a diagnosis of third cranial nerve palsy followed up in a university-based pediatric ophthalmology practice between 1981 and 1996.


Forty-nine children with 53 affected eyes were followed up for a mean of 5.5 years. Third cranial nerve palsy was partial in 31 children (32 eyes) and complete in 18 children (21 eyes). The palsy was congenital in 20 eyes and caused by postnatal trauma in 17 eyes. Seventeen eyes had aberrant regeneration and four eyes with partial third cranial nerve palsy had spontaneous resolution. Thirty-six children (38 eyes) were affected before visual maturation (age 8 years), and 25 (27 eyes) had amblyopia. Of the five amblyopic eyes with quantifiable visual acuity, none had measurable improvement of Snellen visual acuity during the follow-up period. Overall, visual acuity was between 6/5 and 6/12 at the last follow-up visit in 31 eyes (58%). Ocular alignment was greatly improved after strabismus procedures, with a mean of 1.5 procedures for patients with partial third cranial nerve palsy and 2.3 procedures for those with complete palsy. Binocular function was difficult to preserve or restore but was achieved for some patients with partial third cranial nerve palsy.


Surgical treatment of third cranial nerve palsy is frequently necessary, especially in cases of complete palsy. Multiple strabismus procedures are often needed to maintain good ocular alignment. Surgery can result in cosmetically acceptable alignment of the eyes, but it rarely results in restoration or achievement of measurable binocular function. Treatment of amblyopia is effective in maintaining the level of visual acuity present at the onset of the third cranial nerve palsy, but improvement in visual acuity is difficult to achieve.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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